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O Pioneers! (1913)

by Willa Cather

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Prairie Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,6161511,489 (3.88)1 / 498
Cather presents the story of the Nebraska prairie. Alexandra Bergson, daughter of Swedish immigrant farmers, is devoted to the land and suffers the hardships of prairie life.
  1. 20
    My Ántonia by Willa Cather (cometahalley)
  2. 31
    The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas (clif_hiker)
    clif_hiker: pioneer women facing hardship making a home and a life on the prairie...
  3. 00
    Benediction by Kent Haruf (cometahalley)
  4. 00
    Plainsong by Kent Haruf (cometahalley)
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» See also 498 mentions

English (146)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  All languages (151)
Showing 1-5 of 146 (next | show all)
Beautifully written and a thorough joy to read. While I started out comparing it to My Antonia, there is a different quality to it and character of Alexandra is more fully explored. There is a quietness and depth to her that I found so compelling. I did not expect the final tragedies until they were sadly inevitable but the whole novel was just a small brilliant gem. Yes, The Song of the Lark remains my favorite but this is very close.
  amyem58 | May 25, 2022 |
At first glance, this read is a pleasant story; but like the rain, it sinks in and thoughts and understanding begin to grow. This could be the story of many of my ancestors. It could be the story of the independent women who settled the wild land and men. It could be the story of repression endured, of the strength of love, and the agony of failure. So many undercurrents are in this tale, as in life. It was a pleasant story, though it dealt with heartache, failure and depression. It is a love song to the land, and those who love the land. ( )
  MrsLee | Apr 28, 2022 |
Story of a family whose members take different courses after the patriarch dies. A main character is the land and it is evoked pretty well. That said, this is a story about taming the land for agriculture with an implicit message that this is somehow a good thing. At first this prairie-taming is indeed heroic. The plot is fairly canned and thus it is not very compelling. There is not enouch depth or complexity in these flat characters to make me care about what happens to them. ( )
  brianstagner | Feb 19, 2022 |
The work is known for its vivid re-creation of the hardships of prairie life and of the struggle of immigrant pioneer women. The novel was partially based on Cather’s Nebraska childhood, and it reflected the author’s belief in the primacy of spiritual and moral values over the purely material. Its heroine, Alexandra Bergson, exemplified the courage and purpose Cather felt were necessary to subdue the wild land. The title is taken from Walt Whitman’s poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” which, like the novel, celebrated frontier virtues of strength and inner spirit. ( )
  Marcos_Augusto | Jan 19, 2022 |
3.5
I’m shocked at how much I liked this. Kinda clumsy, but ultimately very moving and full of heart :) ( )
  noramd | Dec 17, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 146 (next | show all)
There isn't a vestige of 'style' as such: for page after page one is dazed at the ineptness of the medium and the triviality of the incidents...
 

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willa Catherprimary authorall editionscalculated
Byatt, A. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindemann, MarileeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perrin, NoelAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weakley, MarkIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.
Dedication
To the memory of
Sarah Orne Jewett
in whose beautiful and delicate work
there is the perfection
that endures
First words
One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling and eddying about the cluster of low drab buildings huddled on the gray prairie, under a gray sky. The dwelling-houses were set about haphazard on the tough prairie sod; some of them looked as if they had been moved in overnight, and others as if they were straying off by themselves, headed straight for the open plain. None of them had any appearance of permanence, and the howling wind blew under them as well as over them. The main street was a deeply rutted road, now frozen hard, which ran from the squat red railway station and the grain “elevator” at the north end of the town to the lumber yard and the horse pond at the south end. On either side of this road straggled two uneven rows of wooden buildings; the general merchandise stores, the two banks, the drug store, the feed store, the saloon, the post-office. The board sidewalks were gray with trampled snow, but at two o’clock in the afternoon the shopkeepers, having come back from dinner, were keeping well behind their frosty windows. The children were all in school, and there was nobody abroad in the streets but a few rough-looking countrymen in coarse overcoats, with their long caps pulled down to their noses. Some of them had brought their wives to town, and now and then a red or a plaid shawl flashed out of one store into the shelter of another. At the hitch-bars along the street a few heavy work-horses, harnessed to farm wagons, shivered under their blankets. About the station everything was quiet, for there would not be another train in until night.
Quotations
The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.
People have to snatch at happiness when they can, in this world. It is always easier to lose than to find.
Those fields, colored by various grain! - Mickiewicz
When the road began to climb the first long swells of the Divide, Alexandra hummed an old Swedish hymn, and Emil wondered why his sister looked so happy. Her face was so radiant that he felt shy about asking her. For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious. Her eyes drank in the breadth of it, until her tears blinded her. Then the Genius of the Divide, the great, free spirit which breathes across it, must have bent lower than it ever bent to a human will before. The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.
But that, as Emil himself had more than once reflected, was Alexandra's blind side, and her life had not been of the kind to sharpen her vision. Her training had all been toward the end of making her proficient in what she had undertaken to do. Her personal life, her own realization of herself, was almost a subconscious existence; like an underground river that came to the surface only here and there, at intervals months apart, and then sank again to flow on under her own fields. Nevertheless, the underground stream was there, and it was because she had so much personality to put into her enterprises and succeeded in putting it into them so completely, that her affairs prospered better than those of her neighbors.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Cather presents the story of the Nebraska prairie. Alexandra Bergson, daughter of Swedish immigrant farmers, is devoted to the land and suffers the hardships of prairie life.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Alexandra is the eldest child of the Bergsons, a ship-building family from Norway who have come to the American Midwest to wrest their living from another kind of frontier. Alexandra is driven by two great forces:her fierce protective love for her young brother Emil, and her deep love of the land. When her father dies, worn out by disease and debt, it is she who becomes head of the family and begins the long, hard process of taming the country, forcing it to yield wheat and corn where only the grass and wildflowers had grown since time began. Through the life, hopes, successes - and failures - of this magnificent woman we learn the story of all the immigrants who came to carve out new homes for themselves, who struggled against ignorance, drought, storm, poverty and came to love and understand the earth until it rewarded them with richness beyond measure.
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